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A Spanish Will








From: Heart Of The Sunset

With a singing heart Alaire rode through the night at her
husband's side. The strain of the last few hours had been so
intense, the relief at her deliverance so keen, that now she felt
curiously weak, and she kept close to Dave, comforted by his
nearness and secure in the knowledge of his strength.

Although he was unusually taciturn and rode with his chin upon his
breast, she attributed his silence to fatigue. Now and then,
therefore, she spurred to his side and spoke softly, caressingly.
At such times he reached for her hand and clung to it.

Dave was indeed weary; he was, in fact, in a sort of stupor, and
not infrequently he dozed for a moment or two in his saddle. Yet
it was not this which stilled his tongue, but a growing sense of
guilt and dismay at what he had brought upon himself. In a moment
of weakness he had done the very thing against which he had fought
so bitterly, and now he faced the consequences. How, when, where
could he find strength to undo his action? he asked himself. The
weight of this question bent his shoulders, paralyzed his wits.

Some two hours out from La Feria the riders halted at a point
where the road dipped into a rocky stream-bed; then, as the horses
drank, Dolores voiced a thought that had troubled all of them.

"If that bandit really means to spare us, why did he send us away
in the night, like this?" she asked. "I shall be surprised if we
are not assassinated before morning."

"He must have meant it." Alaire spoke with a conviction she did
not entirely feel. "Father O'Malley aroused the finer side of his
nature."

"Perhaps," agreed the priest. "Somewhere in him there is a fear of
God."

But Dave was skeptical. "More likely a fear of the gringo
Government," said he. "Longorio is a four-flusher. When he
realized he was licked he tried to save his face by a grandstand
play. He didn't want to let us go."

"Then what is to prevent him from--well, from having us followed?"
Alaire inquired.

"Nothing," Dave told her.

As they climbed the bank and rode onward into the night she said:
"No matter what happens, dear, I shall be happy, for at last one
of my dreams has come true." He reached out and patted her.
"You've no idea what a coward I was until you came. But the moment
I saw you all my fears vanished. I was like a lost child who
suddenly sees her father; in your arms I felt perfectly safe, for
the first time in all my life, I think. I--I couldn't bear to go
on without you, after this."

Dave found nothing to say; they rode along side by side for a time
in a great contentment that required no speech. Then Alaire asked:

"Dear, have you considered how we--are going to explain our
marriage?"

"Won't the circumstances explain it?"

"Perhaps. And yet--It seems ages since I learned--what happened to
Ed, but in reality it's only a few hours. Won't people talk?"

Dave caught at the suggestion. "I see. Then let's keep it secret
for the present. I promise not to--act like a husband."

With a little reckless laugh she confessed, "I--I'm afraid I'll
find it difficult to be conventional."

"My wife!" he cried in sharp agony. Leaning far out, he encircled
her with his arm; then, half lifting her from her saddle, he
crushed his lips to hers. It was his first display of emotion
since Father O'Malley had united them.

There were few villages along the road they followed, and because
of the lateness of the hour all were dark, hence the party passed
through without exciting attention except from an occasional
wakeful dog. But as morning came and the east began to glow Dave
told the priest:

"We've got to hide out during the day or we'll get into trouble.
Besides, these women must be getting hungry."

"I fear there is something feminine about me," confessed the
little man. "I'm famished, too."

At the next rancho they came to they applied for shelter, but were
denied; in fact, the owner cursed them so roundly for being
Americans that they were glad to ride onward. A mile or two
farther along they met a cart the driver of which refused to
answer their greetings. As they passed out of his sight they saw
that he had halted his lean oxen and was staring after them
curiously. Later, when the sun was well up and the world had fully
awakened, they descried a mounted man, evidently a cowboy, riding
through the chaparral. He saw them, too, and came toward the road,
but after a brief scrutiny he whirled his horse and galloped off
through the cactus, shouting something over his shoulder.

"This won't do," O'Malley declared, uneasily. "I don't like the
actions of these people. Let me appeal to the next person we meet.
I can't believe they all hate us."

Soon they came to a rise in the road, and from the crest of this
elevation beheld ahead of them a small village of white houses
shining from the shelter of a grove. The rancheria was perhaps two
miles away, and galloping toward it was the vaquero who had
challenged them.

"That's the Rio Negro crossing," Dave announced. Then spying a
little house squatting a short distance back from the road, he
said: "We'd better try yonder. If they turn us down we'll have to
take to the brush."

O'Malley agreed. "Yes, and we have no time to lose. That horseman
is going to rouse the town. I'm afraid we're--in for it."

Dave nodded silently.

Leaving the beaten path, the refugees threaded their way through
cactus and sage to a gate, entering which they approached the
straw-thatched jacal they had seen. A naked boy baby watched them
draw near, then scuttled for shelter, piping an alarm. A man
appeared from somewhere, at sight of whom the priest rode forward
with a pleasant greeting. But the fellow was unfriendly. His wife,
too, emerged from the dwelling and joined her husband in warning
Father O'Malley away.

"Let me try," Alaire begged, and spurred her horse up to the
group. She smiled down at the country people, saying: "We have
traveled a long way, and we're tired and hungry. Won't you give us
something to eat? We'll pay you well for your trouble."

The man demurred sullenly, and began a refusal; but his wife,
after a wondering scrutiny, interrupted him with a cry. Rushing
forward, she took the edge of Alaire's skirt in her hands and
kissed it.

"God be praised! A miracle!" she exclaimed. "Juan, don't you see?
It is the beautiful senora for whom we pray every night of our
lives. On your knees, shameless one! It is she who delivered you
from the prison."

Juan stared unbelievingly, then his face changed; his teeth
flashed in a smile, and, sweeping his hat from his head, he, too,
approached Alaire.

"It is! senora, I am Juan Garcia, whom you saved, and this is
Inez," he declared. "Heaven bless you and forgive me."

"Now I know you," Alaire laughed, and slipped down from her
saddle. "This is a happy meeting. So! You live here, and that was
little Juan who ran away as if we were going to eat him. Well, we
are hungry, but not hungry enough to devour Juanito."

Turning to her companions, she explained the circumstances of her
first meeting with these good people, and as she talked the
Garcias broke in joyfully, adding their own account of her
goodness.

"We've fallen among friends," Alaire told Dave and Father
O'Malley. "They will let us rest here, I am sure."

Husband and wife agreed in one voice. In fact, they were overjoyed
at an opportunity of serving her; and little Juan, his suspicions
partially allayed, issued from hiding and waddled forward to take
part in the welcome.

Shamefacedly the elder Garcia explained his inhospitable reception
of the travelers. "We hear the gringos are coming to kill us and
take our farms. Everybody is badly frightened. We are driving our
herds away and hiding what we can. Yesterday at the big Obispo
ranch our people shot two Americans and burned some of their
houses. They intend to kill all the Americans they find, so you'd
better be careful. Just now a fellow rode up shouting that you
were coming, but of course I didn't know--"

"Yes, of course. We're trying to reach the border," Father
O'Malley told him. "Will you hide us here until we can go on?"

Juan courtesied respectfully to the priest. "My house is yours,
Father."

"Can you take care of our horses, too, and--give us a place to
sleep?" Dave asked. His eyes were heavy; he had been almost
constantly in the saddle since leaving Jonesville, and now could
barely keep himself awake.

"Trust me," the Mexican assured them, confidently. "If somebody
comes I'll send them away. Oh, I can lie with the best of them."

The Garcias were not ordinary people, and they lived in rather
good circumstances for country folk. There were three rooms to
their little house, all of which were reasonably clean. The food
that Inez set before her guests, too, was excellent if scanty.

Juanito, taking the cue from his parents, flung himself whole-
heartedly into the task of entertainment, and since Alaire met his
advances halfway he began, before long, to look upon her with
particular favor. Once they had thoroughly made friends, he
showered her with the most flattering attentions. His shyness, it
seemed, was but a pretense--at heart he was a bold and
enterprising fellow--and so, as a mark of his admiration, he
presented her with all his personal treasures. First he fetched
and laid in her lap a cigar-box wagon with wooden wheels--
evidently the handiwork of his father. Then he gave her, one by
one, a highly prized blue bottle, a rusty Mexican spur, and the
ruins of what had been a splendid clasp knife. There were no
blades in the knife, but he showed her how to peep through a tiny
hole in the handle, where was concealed the picture of a dashing
Spanish bullfighter. The appreciation which these gifts evoked
intoxicated the little man and roused him to a very madness of
generosity. He pattered away and returned shortly, staggering and
grunting under the weight of another and a still greater offering.
It was a dog--a patient, hungry dog with very little hair. The
animal was alive with fleas--it scratched absent-mindedly with one
hind paw, even while Juanito strangled it against his naked
breast--but it was the apple of its owner's eye, and when Inez
unfeelingly banished it from the house Juanito began to squall
lustily. Nor could he be conciliated until Alaire took him upon
her knee and told him about another boy, of precisely his own age
and size, who planted a magic bean in his mother's dooryard, which
grew up and up until it reached clear to the sky, where a giant
lived. Juanito Garcia had never heard the like. He was spellbound
with delight; he held his breath in ecstasy; only his toes moved,
and they wriggled like ten fat, brown tadpoles.

In the midst of this recital Garcia senior appeared in the door
with a warning.

"Conceal yourselves," he said, quickly. "Some of our neighbors are
coming this way." Inez led her guests into the bedchamber, a bare
room with a dirt floor, from the window of which they watched Juan
go to meet a group of horsemen. Inez went out, too, and joined in
the parley. Then, after a time, the riders galloped away.

When Alaire, having watched the party out of sight, turned from
the window she found that Dave had collapsed upon a chair and was
sleeping, his limbs relaxed, his body sagging.

"Poor fellow, he's done up," Father O'Malley exclaimed.

"Yes; he hasn't slept for days," she whispered. "Help me." With
the assistance of Dolores they succeeded in lifting Dave to the
bed, but he half roused himself. "Lie down, dear," Alaire told
him. "Close your eyes for a few minutes. We're safe now."

"Somebody has to keep watch," he muttered, thickly, and tried to
fight off his fatigue. But he was like a drunken man.

"I'm not sleepy; I'll stand guard," the priest volunteered, and,
disregarding further protest, he helped Alaire remove Dave's coat.

Seeing that the bed was nothing more than a board platform covered
with straw matting, Alaire folded the garment for a pillow; as she
did so a handful of soiled, frayed letters spilled out upon the
floor.

"Rest now, while you have a chance," she begged of her husband.
"Just for a little while."

"All right," he agreed. "Call me in--an hour. Couldn't sleep--
wasn't time." He shook off his weariness and smiled at his wife,
while his eyes filmed with some emotion. "There is something I
ought to tell you, but--I can't now--not now. Too sleepy." His
head drooped again; she forced him back; he stretched himself out
with a sigh, and was asleep almost instantly.

Alaire motioned the others out of the room, then stood looking
down at the man into whose keeping she had given her life. As she
looked her face became radiant. Dave was unkempt, unshaven, dirty,
but to her he was of a godlike beauty, and the knowledge that he
was hers to comfort and guard was strangely thrilling. Her love
for Ed, even that first love of her girlhood, had been nothing
like this. How could it have been like this? she asked herself.
How could she have loved deeply when, at the time, her own nature
lacked depth? Experience had broadened her, and suffering had
uncovered depths in her being which nothing else had had the power
to uncover. Stooping, she kissed Dave softly, then let her cheek
rest against his. Her man! Her man! She found herself whispering
the words.

Her eyes were wet, but there was a smile upon her lips when she
gathered up the letters which had dropped from her husband's
pocket. She wondered, with a little jealous twinge, who could be
writing to him. It seemed to her that she owned him now, and that
she could not bear to share him with any other. She studied the
inscriptions with a frown, noticing as she did so that several of
the envelopes were unopened--either Dave was careless about euch
things or else he had had no leisure in which to read his mail.
One letter was longer and heavier than the rest, and its covering,
sweat-stained and worn at the edges, came apart in her hands,
exposing several pages of type-writing in the Spanish language.
The opening words challenged her attention.

In the name of God, Amen,

Alaire read. Involuntarily her eye followed the next line:

Know all men by this public instrument that I, Maria Josefa Law,
of this vicinity--

Alaire started, Who, she asked herself, was Maria Josefa Law? Dave
had no sisters; no female relatives whatever, so far as she knew.
She glanced at the sleeping man and then back at the writing.

--finding myself seriously ill in bed, but with sound judgment,
full memory and understanding, believing in the ineffable
mysteries of the Holy Trinity, three distinct persons in one God,
in essence, and in the other mysteries acknowledged by our Mother,
the Church--

So! This was a will--one of those queer Spanish documents of which
Alaire had heard--but who was Maria Josefa Law? Alaire scanned the
sheets curiously, and on the reverse side of the last one
discovered a few lines, also in Spanish, but scrawled in pencil.
They read:

MY DEAR NEPHEW,--Here is the copy of your mother's will that I
told you about. At the time of her death she was not possessed of
the property mentioned herein, and so the original document was
never filed for record, but came to me along with certain family
possessions of small value. It seems to contain the information
you desire.

Y'rs aff'ly,

FRANCISCO RAMIREZ.

The will of Dave's mother! Then Maria Josefa Law was that poor
woman regarding whose tragic end Judge Ellsworth had spoken so
peculiarly. Alaire felt not a little curiosity to know more about
the mother of the man whose name she had taken. Accordingly, after
a moment of debate with herself, she sat down to translate the
instrument. Surely Dave would not object if she occupied herself
thus while he slept.

The document had evidently been drawn in the strictest form,
doubtless by some local priest, for it ran:

First: I commend my soul to the Supreme Being who from nothing
formed it, and my body I order returned to earth, and which, as
soon as it shall become a corpse, it is my wish shall be shrouded
with a blue habit in resemblance to those used by the monks of our
Seraphic Father, St. Francis; to be interred with high mass,
without pomp--

Alaire mused with a certain reverent pleasure that Dave's mother
had been a devout woman.

Second: I declare to have, in the possession of my husband,
Franklin Law, three horses, with splendid equipment of saddles and
bridles, which are to be sold and the proceeds applied to masses
for the benefit of my soul. I so declare, that it may appear.

Third: I declare to owe to Mrs. Guillelmo Perez about twenty
dollars, to be ascertained by what she may have noted in her book
of accounts. So I declare, that this debt may be paid as I have
ordered.

Fourth: In just remuneration for the services of my cousin,
Margarita Ramirez, I bequeath and donate a silver tray which
weighs one hundred ounces, seven breeding cows, and four fine
linen and lace tablecloths. So I declare, that it may appear.

Fifth: I bequeath to my adopted son, David, offspring of the
unfortunate American woman who died in my house at Escovedo, the
share of land--

Alaire re-read this paragraph wonderingly, then let the document
fall into her lap. So Dave was an adopted son, and not actually
the child of this woman, Maria Josefa Law. She wondered if he knew
it, and, if so, why he hadn't told her? But, after all, what
difference did it make who or what he was? He was hers to love and
to comfort, hers to cherish and to serve.

For a long time she sat gazing at him tenderly; then she tiptoed
out and delighted the naked Garcia baby by taking him in her arms
and hugging him. Inez thought the beautiful senora's voice was
like the music of birds.

It was growing dark when Dave was awakened by cool hands upon his
face and by soft lips upon his. He opened his eyes to find Alaire
bending over him.

"You must get up," she smiled. "It is nearly time to go, and Inez
is cooking our supper."

He reached up and took her in his arms. She lay upon his breast,
thrilling happily with her nearness to him, and they remained so
for a while, whispering now and then, trying ineffectually to
voice the thoughts that needed no expression.

"Why did you let me sleep so long?" he asked her, reproachfully.

"Oh, I've been napping there in that chair, where I could keep one
eye on you. I'm terribly selfish; I can't bear to lose one
minute." After a while she said: "I've made a discovery. Father
O'Malley snores dreadfully! Juanito never heard anything like it,
and it frightened him nearly to death. He says the Father must be
a very fierce man to growl so loudly. He says, too, that he likes
me much better than his mother."

It seemed to Dave that the bliss of this awakening and the sweet
intimacy of this one moment more than rewarded him for all he had
gone through, and paid him for any unhappiness the future might
hold in store.

He felt called upon to tell Alaire the truth about himself; but
with her in his arms he had no strength of purpose; her every
endearment made him the more aware of his weakness. Again he asked
himself when and how he could bear to tell her? Not now. Certainly
not now when she was trembling under his caresses.

"I've been busy, too," she was saying. "I sent Juan to the village
to learn the news, and it's not very nice. It's good we stopped
here. He says Nuevo Pueblo has been destroyed, and the Federal
forces are all moving south, away from the border. So our troubles
aren't over yet. We must reach the river tonight."

"Yes, by all means."

"Juan is going with us as guide."

"You arranged everything while I snoozed, eh? I'm ashamed of
myself."

Alaire nodded, then pretended to frown darkly. "You ought to be,"
she told him. "While you were asleep I read your mail and--"

"My mail?" Dave was puzzled.

"Exactly. Have you forgotten that your pockets were full of
unopened letters?"

"Oh, those! They came just as I was leaving Jonesville, and I
haven't thought of them since. You know, I haven't had my clothes
off."

"I'm going to read all your love letters," she told him,
threateningly.

"Yes, and you're going to write all of them, too," he laughed.

But she shook a warning finger in his face. "I told you I'm a
jealous person. I'm going to know all about you, past, present,
and future. I--"

"Alaire! My darling!" he cried, and his face stiffened as if with
pain.

Still in a joyous mood, she teased him. "You had better tremble,
I've found you out, deceiver. I know who you really are."

"Who am I?"

"Don't you know?"

Dave shook his head.

"Really? Have you never read your mother's will?"

Law rose to his elbow, then swung his legs to the floor. "What are
you talking about?" he asked.

For answer Alaire handed him the frayed envelope and its contents.

He examined it, and then said, heavily: "I see! I was expecting
this. It seems I've been carrying it around all this time--"

"Why don't you read it?" she insisted. "There's light enough there
by the window. I supposed you knew all about it or I wouldn't have
joked with you."

He opened his lips to speak, but, seeing something in her eyes, he
stepped to the window and read swiftly. A moment, and then he
uttered a cry.

"Alaire!" he exclaimed, hoarsely. "Read this--My eyes--O God!"

Wonderingly she took the sheets from his shaking hands and read
aloud the paragraph he indicated: Fifth: I bequeath to my adopted
son, David, offspring of the unfortunate American woman who died
in my house at Escovedo--

Again Dave cried out and knelt at Alaire's feet, his arms about
her knees, his face buried in her dress. His shoulders were
heaving and his whole body was racked with sobs.

Shocked, frightened, Alaire tried to raise him, but he encircled
her in a tighter embrace.

"Dave! What is it? What have I done?" she implored. "Have I hurt
you so?"

It was a long time before he could make known the significance of
that paragraph, and when he finally managed to tell her about the
terrible fear that had lain so heavily upon his soul it was in
broken, choking words which showed his deep emotion. The story was
out at last, however, and he stood over her transfigured.

Alaire lifted her arms and placed them upon his shoulders. "Were
you going to give me up for that?--for a shadow?"

"Yes. I had made up my mind. I wouldn't have dared marry you last
night, but--I never expected to see today's sun. I didn't think it
would make much difference. It was more than a shadow, Alaire. It
was real. I WAS mad--stark, staring mad--or in a fair way of
becoming so. I suppose I brooded too much. Those violent spells,
those wild moments I sometimes have, made me think it must be
true. I dare say they are no more than temper, but they seemed to
prove all that Ellsworth suspected."

"You must have thought me a very cowardly woman," she told him.
"It wouldn't have made the slightest difference to me, Dave. We
would have met it together when it came, just as we'll meet
everything now--you and I, together."

"My wife!" He laid his lips against her hair.

They were standing beside the window, speechless, oblivious to all
except their great love, when Dolores entered to tell them that
supper was ready and that the horses were saddled.





Next: The Dawn

Previous: The Man Of Destiny



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